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Aarakshan – What’s the Fuss About? The Movie is about Education, not Reservation

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A few hours after seeing Aarakshan (on its opening day) which got an excellent amount of publicity and PR due the Ban on the movie in the states of Punjab (lifted two days after the release), UP and Andhra Pradesh we were shocked to learn that the movie had been banned from further screening in our location too. The reason for this surprise wasn’t due to the fact that the act of banning something itself is a violation of freedom of speech and undermines the authority of the Censor Board, but because we couldn’t really appreciate what part of the movie was objectionable in the first place.

Aarakshan, a mainstram Bollywood flick produced and directed by Prakash Jha starring Amitabh Bachchan, Saif Khan, Deepika Padukone and Manoj Bajpai is not about SC/ST/OBC reservation or caste-ism at all. The movie instead focuses on the bane of commercialisation of education with Amitabh Bachchan the lead protagonist showcasing his support of the fact that Dalits, and members of the less privileged sects of society cannot compete at par with the rest unless they are provided with special attention and help. Apart from the first 60 minutes of the movie which is a mishmash of unwanted and misplaced songs and a war of words between Saif Khan (who plays a Dalit) and Prateik Babbar (belonging to the upper crust General Society) around an environment of new reservation rules the rest of the movie focuses on a different area.

Prof. Prabhakar Anand (Big B) is a highly accomplished, well known and respected principal of a reputed private college who has a soft corner for the financially weaker community of students including the Dalits. He runs special coaching classes at his house free of cost for the needy students, since there is no provision for the same in his college. Mithilesh Singh (Manoj Bajpai) is Professor Anand’s adversary who thinks of education as a highly profitable business and with the help of politicians and trustees from the school board, plots to overthrow Prabhakar Anand from the position of Principal and starts his own chain of private coaching centers. After he succeeds in his mission, he goes on to leave Professor Anand homeless and insulted.

The turning point of the movie and Professor Anand’s character comes after the scene depicted above. To salvage his pride, dignity, honor and prove his vision for society Prabhakar Anand starts providing free classes to the backward classes operating out of a cowshed. He works tirelessly and in a short amount of time his classes that are free and open to all sects of society become highly well-known and reputed. This in essence is the main message of the movie, that reservation is a bane and isn’t required but that vision can only become a reality only when we are able to treat all sections of society equally and provide all children the same starting point in life. Until then, there is a need to support reservation while working on initiatives to strengthen the education system and make it less profit-oriented.

The film has fine performances by all the artists but is lead from the front by the agnificent Amitabh Bachchan who if given the right role is still miles ahead of any other Bollywood actor (Aamir Khan is the only other real contender). Overall, the movie is a decent watch if you are looking to watch something meaningful. The film is also expected to sort out the issues around its ban and be ready for country wide viewing in the next few days.